Tamil Nadu is a very religious State and the number of temples here is possibly the highest in India.  In fact, most of the tourism that happens in Tamil Nadu, are centered around temples.

There is an urgent need to actually make all people aware of the tremendous spiritual heritage of Tamil Nadu.  There are hundreds of temples.  However, some great sages have also lived in Tamil Nadu, and have made enormous contribution to the thought processes of millions.

Man does not live on bread alone.  This has been proved time and again.  If it were so, and only money were to make all the difference, the richest people would also be the happiest people.  But this is just not true.

The rich and the famous are not peaceful at all.  They have their own worries, chief among them, being how the younger generation share all their wealth. 

Be that as it may, the fact remains that a perfect peace of mind and happiness is possible to any human being who remains detached from the mundane worries of life, think always about doing good to others, and is actually engaged in some work that makes live very meaningful and happy, to every single human being that one comes across in his or her life.

To this end, Tamil Nadu is a highly ideal State that offers anyone absolute peace of mind, and does offer any number of chances to happily unwind oneself in an atmosphere where Vedic mantras are recited, where there is an atmosphere of happiness all around.

One such place is a very small temple, now called Tapovanam, This temple is the abode of  Swami Gnanananda, one of the few Swamis of Tamil Nadu, who never made any publicity for himself or for his abode.  Yet, there are thousands of followers who flock to this small temple, all through the year.  However, such devotees themselves do not speak much to others, and hence this lovely temple is not known to many.

In these series of articles, it will be my endeavor to bring to light some of the facts about not only this temple, but also other temples of Tamil Nadu, all docuemented from authentic sources, both informed and published in Tamil.

Tapovanam is situated around thrity one kilometers from one of the very famous towns called Tiruvannamalai.  This town of Tiruvannamalai can be reached from Katpadi, which is a major junction on the Chennai to Bangalore and Chennai to Coimbatore routes, either by train or by bus. The trains are there only on specific timings, but from Vellore Bus stand ( Katpadi and Vellore are twin towns, just five kilometers apart from each other), there is a bus every ten minutes to Tiruvannamalai.  From Tiruvannamalai there are many town buses to a place called Tirukovilur, which is a very msall town, some thirty five kilometers away.  Topavanam is three kilometers ahed of Tirukovilur.  All town buses from Tiruvannamalai to Tirukovilur go via Tapovanam and stop there.

Now, about the temple.  Swami Gnanananda was an ardent follower of Adi Sankaracharya and had very simple habits.  Today, the temple and the trust and admininstered by his disciples.

Swami Gnanananda did not perform any miracles.  Before he attained Moksha some five decades ago, he had stayed for decades in the very same place called Tapovanam.  Even today, there are some books about him in both English and Tamil, but these are sold only a Tapovanam.  This is because duing his lifetime, Swami desired that no publicity should ever be made about the temple, or his teachings.  However, the good word spread, and once a person became a devotee, he and his family would follow the traditions for generations.  This is how the followers have multiplied.

Swami Gnanananda never believed in doing miracles.  In fact, it is said that during his Darshans, he would speak very little, making his followers understand that basic love and affection towards all is the essence of life.  In fact, there are quite a few followers from as far as USA, UK, Germany and so on, but each of them would have not possibly seen Swami during his lifetime.  

His teachings were very simple.  He would only emphasice that peace of mind and happiness were very important of life, even when we -- literally each one of us -- is still part of the rat race.

It is said that during listening to him, many wealthy people started doing many good things to the poor, and to the needy.  In fact, it was Swami Gnanananda who introduced worship through the Tamil religious songs such as Tirupavai Tiruvarampavai, and the like.  He had broken casts barriers.  

Cut to the present.  The rituals and prayers in Tapovanam, are very simple to understand and are not based on caste.  Any one can take part in all prayers, but if one wants to register himself or herself as a devotee for a particular pooja, one has to pay just Rs. 100/- for any pooja conducted in the mornings.  Even this amount is spent towards buying off the essentials needed for the particular pooja and the prasad is given to those who register for the particular pooja.  Only for the Ganapathi pooja ( a special pooja done every day, with lighting of the special fire, called Homam in Tamil), within the temple premises, one has to pay Rs.150/-.  

Those who do not want to pay for any pooja, may please present themselves at this temple, between 6AM and 10AM and receive blessings of Swami Gnanananda.  

Those who would like to stay in the temple premises ( there are quite a few rooms in the vicinity of the temple, and maintained by the trust), can contact the Trust one day in advance, before 8PM and register for any pooja.  They will be given a room free of charge, and this includes lunch, for the devotee and his family, at exactly 10 AM or 10.15AM  everyday.  In other words, the Trust would normally encourage any devotee to stay overnight and watch the Poojas on the next day, but after paying the very small amount of Rs.100 or Rs.150/-/..  

For example, a person planning to visit this temple from say, Tiruchirapalli, can take a bus to Villupuram, and take another bus to Tirukovilur from Villupuram.  From Tirukovilur there are town buses and even mini buses.  There are auto rickshaws too, and this would cost around Rs.60/- to the temple premises (three kilometer away), stay for the night at Tapovanam, register for one of the poojas and witness the pooja and also have lunch, at 10 AM or so.  After a good nap, one can vacate the premises and proceed to Tiruvannamalai, which has the Ramana Maharishi Ashram and the world-famous Lord Arunachala temple.  One can boad the bus at the Tapovanam stop itself.

Coming back to the teachings of Lord Gnanananda.  It is very common to find devotees being very kind to each other and to others too.  Absolute peace of kind is guaranteed to anyone wanting to visit this temple.  There is no compulsion to make any other donation at all.  

The Trust has to two telephone numbers, but the telephonic bookings are not allowed.  However, if onyone or a family of even six people, decide to visit the temple, they can contact the temple, and request them to conduct the pooja on the next day.  However, it is essential that the devotee contacts the Trust Office on the previous day, and also physically presents himself or herself, to register for the Pooja. 

The Trust does not like any publicity and hence the pooja details are not given here.  However, the contact numbers are given here.  They are 04152- 224214 and 04153 -225175.

These are times when the rat race has made each of us, so angry and impatient.  We have become so commercial that making money seems to be our only goal.  Saints like Swami Gnananada would teach us to have that vital balance between our spiritual and commercial lives.  


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